Interview with Aurélie Letortu of FrieslandCampina

2nd March 2022

This year SAI Platform turns 20! And to help us celebrate this incredible milestone we’re talking to some of the members and partners who have helped us develop and champion sustainable agriculture over these last twenty years.

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“If each member was trying to solve this issue alone, nothing would be achieved. However, by working together and using the strength of our combined market share, I am confident we can have impact and change the industry for the better.”

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Aurélie Letortu, Senior Corporate Sustainability Manager at FrieslandCampina and the recently elected Co-Chair of SAI Platform’s Dairy Working Group (DWG) sat with us to provide an overview of the achievements of the DWG and the importance of pre-competitive collaboration as we aim to transform the industry.

What motivated you to run for co-chair of the Dairy Working Group?

Aurélie Letortu: A lot has been achieved by the DWG in the last few years. The launch of the Sustainable Development Partnership (SDP) was a great development for the industry and a huge milestone for the DWG, showing us that by working together pre-competitively, we really can make things happen.

Now is a particularly interesting time for the sector as we enter into a phase where sustainability is at the core of the strategy for most dairy processors and dairy buyers. We need to step up and do more, in less time. We need to respond to the urgent requirements coming from our customers and stakeholders by taking on board all the shared learning of the past five years with the launch of the SDP and find ways to launch new projects in a shorter timeframe.

Regenerative agriculture is something I am passionate about and I really believe it is one of the important solutions for the future of the industry. That’s also why we, as FrieslandCampina, have been working hard on laying a measurable foundation over the past years. At SAI Platform, we are currently in the initial phase but it is clear that the Executive Committee have done a fantastic job in ensuring that the dairy, crops and beef sectors are aligned in their approach and working together to define a new standard for the entire industry.

We think this is the big transition needed as with a new standard in place, everybody can start working towards the same targets, with speed. It is for this reason that we as FrieslandCampina find it important to share our knowledge by becoming co-chair of the DWG and I’m excited about the impact we can make, both in dairy but also in the food and beverage industry in general.

What do you hope will be achieved by the Dairy Working Group in 2022? What are the potential challenges and how are you preparing to tackle them?

Aurélie Letortu: Further improvement to the SDP and transformational projects focused on climate and nature, and therefore, regenerative agriculture and deforestation are the key priority areas for the DWG in 2022. As a lot of companies are now moving to SBTi targets, carbon footprint is a key focus but the challenge is that at present, the carbon footprint of dairy companies are not always comparable with each other. It is here that SAI Platform can help the industry by developing one harmonised approach which can be incorporated into the SDP Reporting Hub. This will help ensure that both SAI Platform and the SDP remain relevant for dairy buyers and processors and I strongly believe this is a key topic that will benefit all of us!

Deforestation is also a priority area and a good example of the benefits of collaboration. Our DWG project is focused on ensuring that the soy going into livestock feed is deforestation free. That’s one of the projects we as FrieslandCampina are really pushing ourselves in the Netherlands too and believe more speed is possible.  If each member was trying to solve this issue alone, nothing would be achieved. However, by working together and using the strength of our combined market share, I am confident we can have impact and change the industry for the better.

The biggest challenge facing the DWG is the timeline. These priority areas are reflective of urgent needs coming from the dairy industry. We need to ensure that we can deliver high quality outcomes in a short period of time. In order to do so, we need to adapt and find new ways of working to ensure that we can meet expectations and stay relevant. Another challenge we are facing is the continued growth of the DWG. It is fantastic that we are gaining more and more members as it shows that SAI Platform is becoming the reference when it comes to sustainability in the dairy industry. However, it is also a challenge as we need to adapt and find new ways of working to ensure all of our members remain engaged.

You have come on board at a crucial time as the Sustainable Dairy Partnership continues to grow in users and influence. How would you describe its value in enhancing dairy sustainability?

Aurélie Letortu: 2022 is a big year for the SDP as it is the first time that dairy buyers will be able to see all of their dairy processors sustainability results in one online platform, the SDP Reporting Hub. This will stimulate continuous improvement as the reports will act as a catalyst for meaningful discussions between buyers and processors regarding progress. The SDP limits having audit work at farm level done by separate customers and streamlines all the efforts we are making into one report, aligning the industry under a common approach and avoiding duplication of effort. It is important that the SDP continues to evolve and address industry needs and this is the premise for our plans to implement the carbon module into the SDP Reporting Hub.

When members join SAI Platform and they have an interest in either the DWG or SDP, how can you make sure they are actively engaged and see the benefit of their membership?

Aurélie Letortu: Thorough onboarding is key and Patricia Garcia Diaz, Director of the DWG is doing a great job here. When new members arrive at their first DWG meeting, they already understand the structure of SAI Platform and our ways of working. New members are encouraged to join new and existing project groups and this is the best way to delve into the content and make connections with other SAI Platform members. Hopefully with travel recommencing, we will also be in a position to meet face to face soon. While we have been able to achieve great things during the last two years of digital meetings, nothing beats meeting in person and I am confident that this will help ease the transition towards new ways of working, open-up discussion and strengthen links between new and existing members.

SAI Platform turns 20 in 2022 and we are celebrating our achievements of the last 20 years with the concept of ‘People powered agriculture’. What does that mean to you?

Aurélie Letortu: Twenty years is a fantastic achievement and one we should all be very proud of. The DWG was developed by a small group of people with big ideas wanting to change the world but back then, there wasn’t enough support to make that happen. Now, we have a voice in the market and I think what has been achieved over the last few years is completely in line with the vision they had at the beginning of this journey.

To us, as FrieslandCampina being farmer owned, People Powered Agriculture means a lot. It’s about exactly that: using our people power to support farmers so they can continue their nature positive and climate neutral journey. It’s also about the people who can make it possible. From farmers working with nature every day to end-consumers enjoying the products and the employees connecting that chain in between. It’s also about helping each other to do better every day. We all reap the benefits of agriculture so we can nourish ourselves. So we all have to give support to make our food system fit for the future. Whether it’s through better pricing for more sustainable farming, doing research or sharing knowledge: we need to give farmers the financial means, know-how and measurability to become more sustainable.

For more information on the SAI Platform Dairy Working Group, please visit our website.